Reply To: Do forms exist?

Forums Forums Materialism and Reductionism Do forms exist? Reply To: Do forms exist?

Ashish Dalela

“So do all kinds of abstract mathematical objects conceivable by the mind exist as real entities in the world?”

Your mind is also in the world. So if something exists in the mind it exists in the world. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the “world” is only what you see externally. The mind is also material and its ideas are material. And this mind interacts with the body. So we have to understand the body in a new way compatible with the existence of ideas.

Modern Western science has assumed that the mind is outside the world and derived the understanding of the body without taking the mind into account. This is the famous mind-body divide of Descartes. It says that we can study the body without understanding the mind. It is a false idea, and therefore everything that follows based upon it, is also false.

There are pure ideas and then there are symbols of ideas. A mathematical theorem is a pure idea, but when you think of that theorem there is an instance of that idea in your mind. This instance is created when our consciousness comes in contact with the pure idea. The consciousness is individual and the idea is universal. When the individual consciousness contacts the universal idea then a particular instance of that idea is created, and we call this instance a “symbol”.

Similarly, “human” is a universal idea, and when our consciousness comes in contact with this universal idea, then the individual human body is created. Therefore, everything that you see originally exists as a pure idea. But when it comes in contact with consciousness it becomes an individual thing, which is also the symbol of the pure idea. Since it becomes a symbol, ordinary things like tables, chairs, houses, apples, are all symbols of some pure idea.

During Greek times philosophers like Aristotle claimed that the world is comprised of two things–form and substance. The form is the idea, but the thing it enters into is the substance. So, they were talking about statues and deities. They said that the substance is the stone, and the god in the statue incarnates. Therefore, by breaking the statue you don’t destroy the idea; you only destroy the substance. For a few thousand years after that people were just trying to figure out how this form and substance come together, and while form is intelligible, the substance is not. So they could never solve this problem. Later modern science threw out the substance and replaced it with forms–mathematical forms–but then gave a materialist interpretation to these forms. For example, particle and wave are forms, mass and charge are forms. But we like to think that there is some material substance that constitutes particle and wave, mass and charge. This is a false idea and advanced scientists and philosophers know this quite well. It is only the less advanced and sophisticated people who think that there is some “matter”.

The Vedic idea is different. There is form and there is consciousness. The form is universal and by contacting the consciousness this universal form becomes an individual. Therefore, everywhere you see individual things, they are created from a universal form by the contact of consciousness. When the universe is destroyed, these forms are not destroyed.

These forms are called Prakriti. Therefore, Prakriti is eternal. It is never created or destroyed. But our experience of this Prakriti is created and destroyed and what we are observing is the production of individual experience from universal forms. We think it is some kind of substance, but it is not. It is objective and prior to our experience, and yet the instantiation of this objective reality is our experience.